An experimental study of prosocial motivation among criminals
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- Birkeland, S., Cappelen, A.W., Sørensen, E.Ø. et al. Exp Econ (2014) 17: 501. doi:10.1007/s10683-013-9380-x
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The fact that criminal behavior typically has negative consequences for others provides a compelling reason to think that criminals lack prosocial motivation. This paper reports the results from two dictator game experiments designed to study the prosocial motivation of criminals. In a lab experiment involving prisoners, we find a striking similarity in the prosocial behavior of criminals and non-criminals, both when they interact with criminals and when they interact with non-criminals. Similarly, in an Internet experiment on a large sample from the general population, we find no difference in the prosocial behavior of individuals with and without a criminal record. We argue that our findings provide evidence of criminals being as prosocially motivated as non-criminals in an important type of distributive situations.